20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
20th Sunday / Ordinary / C
August 13-14, 2016
St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa
Fr. Jon Seda
This week many of us have been watching the Olympics, so have seen lots of races. This fits well with the image given to us in the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. It says to "persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus." The life of discipleship is like running a race, and sometimes we get tired, sometimes we are tempted to give up, and sometimes we are on the wrong track.
The TV shows us winners on the gold medal stand, but we do not see all the training and practice that goes on for many years before that. This too is like discipleship. When I meet a truly holy person, and wonder how she became this way, I also know there is lots of prayer, sacrifice and service that makes this possible. There is no magic wand that will give us a gold medal, and there is no magic wand that will make us a saint.
In running this race, there are three suggestions given us by today's readings that may help us. At the beginning of the reading from Hebrews, we are told that we are surrounded by a cloud of great witnesses. We do not run the race alone. We are inspired by other Christians who mentor us and show us the way. And we are cheered on by the communion of the saints who help us by their intercession.
The second is to keep our eye on the finish line, to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. The goal of this race is not a gold medal, but communion with Jesus in heaven.
The third comes from the Gospel. When I hear this Gospel, I usually immediately focus on the conflict with the world and the division within families, which is true enough in discipleship. But this week, what spoke to me was Jesus' desire to set the world on fire. I think of fire here not as a destructive force, or as providing warmth on a cold evening. I think of fire here as enthusiasm.
When I was in high school many years ago, we had a cheer that was, "Let's get fired up! clap, clap, clap, clap clap." It was lame. It was cheesey. And it did not help our team either. But this is the kind of fire I am thinking about. What is it that gets us fired up? What gives our lives enthusiasm?
In our reconciliation room, there is a wall hanging that I look at while you are making your confession. On the top, it says, "In God." The next line is "En Theos." Then the next line is "Enthusiasm." So I looked this up in the dictionary, and it confirmed what I guessed. The dictionary says enthusiasm is "excited involvement." But later it gives the original meaning from the Greek root. The core meaning of enthusiasm is "God within" from the Greek "en Theos."
So back to the Gospel, Jesus wants to get us fired up. He wants us to be enthused, not about making lots of money, or having our favorite team win, or having Blue Bunny ice cream, although its really good. Enthusiasm meaning showing that God is within us.
Honestly I think much of the Church has an enthusiasm deficit. This does mean we have to sing and dance like Fr. Charlie does, although God bless you if you do. But we could stand to show more enthusiasm, more passion, more fire for our faith.
Today's readings remind us that discipleship is like running a long race. Sometimes it gets tough and sometimes we take detours. In running this race, it helps to remember that we are surrounded by a cloud of great witnesses. It helps to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. And it helps to show some enthusiasm, to have a fire in our belly, to reveal God within.